There are so many reasons why humans consider the planet, the family, the culture, disease, and all of the images of both success and failure as out there, needing our control and manipulation to demonstrate both our “values” and our purpose. In order to keep up the illusion that ‘we are in control’ of our circumstances, we build in rewards and sanctions to perpetuate this picture of reality.
Some would consider this approach to be “Alice-in-wonderland,” topsey-turvey. For some, the “world” has its own soul, meaning, purpose and message, and in order to us to approximate a more realistic and sustainable stance we need to develop the capacity, the willingness, the sensibility and the metaphoric “ear” and perspective that is open to, receptive to, willing to comprehend and vulnerable to integrate what the world is telling us. We are, after all, part of, and not separate from, the things in the world that are trying to get their messages into our psyches. The writer who introduced this scribe to the notion of the world’s soul, and our need to begin to stay quiet and listen to what messages might emit from that ‘world’s soul,’ is Robert Sardello, co-founder of the School of Spiritual Psychology in North Carolina, formerly head of the psychology department and the Institute of Philosophic Studies at the University of Dallas.
Sardello’s book, Facing the World with Soul, (Lindisfarne Press, 1992) includes this passage:
We are accustomed to taking concentration, meditation, picture-making (or imaging) and contemplation as belonging to individual consciousness when they are, it seems to me, a giving over of individual consciousness to the consciousness that is the soul of the world. Concentration is the art of forgetting our own subjectivity in order to be fully available, to what presents itself. When the activities of personal thinking and personal feeling are stilled, the subjectivity of the outer world expresses itself. Meditation is a new kind of thinking, not going off to an ashram or a private room to ah and om, but leaving behind the physical brain, which can only reflect the material world in its outer aspect, in order to enter into the intelligence of things. Thus, meditation is the intensification of intelligence, the warmth and light within things. Picture-making or imaging unfold from the action of meditation. Images are reflections of the warmth of meditation, they are a reflective intelligence. But this intelligence must maintain intimate connection with concentration and meditation; alone, imaging focuses only on the product and picturing becomes looking at pictures. And then contemplation-the call to contemplative life no longer implies removal from the world, but the exact opposite, constant mobile relation with the movement of the soul of the world. (p.25-6)
A continuous “flow” between the human being and the “world” is based on the notion that, at a very profound level, we are intimately connected to the world, and not separate from, detached from, isolated from or even abandoned by the world.
The implications of this reversed perspective are monumental. Let’s look at a few of them, starting with disease and medicine.
I want to speak of disease, letting disease tell the condition of soul in the world. In order for disease to speak in this way, the modern medical attitude must be suspended. There are many aspects to this modern outlook: the viewing of the body as a conglomeration of parts, of disease as the invasion of the body be destructive entities, of the physician as heroic warrior; the assumption that death is evil; the optimism that the marriage between science and technology will produce cures of all diseases, disease itself being seen as evil. This outlook now extends far beyond the bounds of medicine and constitutes a way of looking upon everything in the world that we now find uncomfortable or do not like. Everything from drinking to sex to relationships that are difficult now counts as disease and thus as being in need of medical treatment. I want to approach disease from an entirely different standpoint, to give it a hearing as a presentation of the soul of the world. (p. 65)
Without exception, the world of cancer is the world of mass objects rather than individual things. Cancer appears in the body as the uprising of masses of undifferentiated cells destroying the individual structure of the body, Cancer goes together with mass society.
Sardello here references Victor Bott, who posits two invariable pre-indicators of cancer. The first is the onset of fatigue that will not go away, a particular kind of fatigue unlike exhaustion from work and also unlike depression. The fatigue can be described as more like a lack of animation, an inability to feel engaged in the world. The second symptom is insomnia. Bott says, ‘One could even say that any insomnia beginning without evident cause must make one suspect latent cancer.’ Only to the materialist eye do these symptoms appear assigns of the body under attack by a deadly enemy; by some unknown virus. The fatigue of the natural body, the stressed-out body, that no longer find the wold a home, calls for a different kind of engagement with the world—an engagement alert to all that is unnatural in the world, alert to the dying body of the world, committed to enlivening the world, the reclothing it with acts of imagination. The inability to sleep, to enter into the dream world, suggests the necessity of seeing the world through the spontaneous act of image making characteristic of dreaming. (Op Cit., p.73- 74)
Sardello offers a similar perspective on heart attack.
Heart attack relates to the world in panic, the world that has lost rhythm, pace, tone, the world in anxiety. The Greek word for anxiety is mermeros, meaning division of an entity into smaller and smaller portions—dismemberment, that it. The Latin word for anxiety is angor, meaning strangling. I suspect that we have received our word “anger” from this source, as well as the world “angina,” the narrowing of the arteries, the anxiety of the heart no longer connected to the flow of time. Smoking, drinking, overeating, lack of exercise—these behaviours cannot be taken as reasons for heart failure, for they serve merely as means to cover deep anxiety, anxiety that belongs first to the dismembered, angry, narrow world in which there is no connection between one thing and another. Does not anxiety come when there are too many things to pay attention to, when there are too many disconnected demands, producing limitation in the field of attention, an underlying apathy, depression of spirit, a wish to keep the world with all its demands at bay through excessive control? Anxiety, then connects with the attempt to keep the anxious world away from the body. Ironically, a culture that keeps the wor5ld separate from the body produced the artificial heart, the heart that locates the world-as-object right at the centre of the body. Thus far, such a procedure ha snot been able to sustain life, while borrowing the hearts of others has prolonged it…
Before the onset of the metaphor of the heart as a pump, heart was felt throughout the body as the rhythmic activity of the body. The pump changes rhythm into mechanical circulation, as activity in the world as also viewed as mechanical circulation—of money, goods, ideas, traffic water. The idea of circulation goes together with the idea of progress; progress does not advance culture, but keeps the same old things circulating in more and more mechanical, automated ways while no substantial transformation over takes place. With progress what begins as heart becomes more and more brain; the activity fo the brain now determines life and death. (p. 75)
For each of us to begin to open to what appears as the inverse of everything we have been taught in a world dominated by the notion of the separation between the human being and the “world” as compared with the persistent, inevitable, and highly impactful flow of “soul-sounds” from the world would open up a much more enriched, “connected” and interdependent, if complex, relationship between our lives and the culture of the world. It would also serve to render much more modest the role of the physician, the machines, the medicines, and the objectification and disconnection between us and all things.
What a poetic prospect!